I first learned about Woven Roots Farm and so many other Berkshire farms and food producers when I was doing recipe-testing and copyediting for "The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook," written by Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner with Brian Alberg. I’m not sure why we didn’t buy a share in a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm sooner, but I adore our regular visits to the farm during the growing season and seeing what produce shows up.
As soon as I glance along the tables in the greenhouse where pick-up takes place, I begin to plan what I will make. I kind of like not knowing what I will get from week to week, and letting the ideas and creativity guide me as we work our way through the week’s offerings.
For the first pick-up this year, of course, there were radishes. The first thing I did when I got home was to enjoy thin slices on good sourdough bread with sweet butter, as Rachel Portnoy of Café Triskele suggested in her recent column on radishes [with sardine butter]. I knew we would be getting lots of early season greens, and we had a great dinner using leftover proteins from prior dinners in a Cobb salad, and then a salade Niçoise. The bok choy went into a wonderful stir-fry with ramen noodles and ground pork with six-minute eggs on top.
We also got a batch of one of my favorites, rainbow chard, which I know is not the most well-known vegetable out there. This hearty green can be used in most recipes calling for spinach, and I love it sautéed simply, with a squeeze of lemon. On this visit to the farm, however, we also got some rhubarb, and I had read in several places recently suggesting that in savory dishes, rhubarb can replace lemon to add tartness to a dish. I tried it and came up with a winner!
If it’s not rhubarb season, fresh lemon juice works just fine. Also, early in the season, the chard stems are quite tender; later when the leaves and stems are bigger, it helps to start cooking the chopped stems before the leaves. I offer the relevant adjustments below.
Of course, when you can get local, farm-fresh produce, the flavors shine all on their own, and the recipes are quite simple. So whether you belong to a CSA or just frequent any of the many farmers markets in our region, be adventurous and try making chard, or something else new!
SAUTÉED CHARD WITH RHUBARB
Serves 2 as a side dish, can be doubled, but be sure to use a big enough pan
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion (or 1/2 medium), sliced thin into half-moons
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup thinly sliced rhubarb (or lemon juice, see below)
8 ounces rainbow or other chard, any larger leaves cut in half; if older, tougher pieces, separate stems and chop); leaves rinsed
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice if not using rhubarb
In a medium to large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering and fragrant. Add the onions and salt. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and just beginning to become golden on the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the rhubarb, and the chard stems if using older, tougher greens. Continue to sauté until the rhubarb has softened, another 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the chard and the Aleppo pepper. Depending on the size of your pan, you may not be able to add all at once, which is just fine. As the leaves cook down, add more chard until all is in the pan. Sauté until all the leaves are softened and wilted. If not using rhubarb, add the lemon juice just before removing from the heat. Drizzle with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and serve.